Bill Mitchell: Welcome to our Angels chat session as we continue to traverse through the AL West organizations. While the Angels farm system is still pretty thin, the organization added some athletic talent and projectable arms in this year’s draft. It’s a positive step forward.
Frank (Indianapolis IN): Will any of these guys be in the conversation for BA's 100?
Bill Mitchell: Jahmai Jones has a pretty good chance of cracking the top 100, and perhaps Matt Thaiss makes the back end of the list. That’s probably it from the Angels.
Grant (NYC): Was newly acquired rhp Vicente Campos considered for your list, or was it finalized beforehand? Thoughts on this acquisition?
Bill Mitchell: Campos, a right-handed pitcher recovering from an ulnar fracture in his right arm, was picked up off waivers from Arizona a couple of weeks ago. That acquisition happened in time for Campos to make the Angels list, but with his recent injury history I couldn’t see putting him in the top ten. He’ll rank somewhere in the teens. Still an interesting guy and only 24-years-old, but he’s had some major injuries to deal with in his career.
Cam (Dallas, TX): Does Connor Justus have a shot to stick at short? Who are you higher on between him and Nolan Williams?
Bill Mitchell: Justus is ranked as the best defensive infielder and the best infield arm in the Angels minor league system right now, so he has a really good chance to stick at short. The question is whether the bat will be enough to give him a career as a utility infielder, which is probably his ceiling. Williams should rank higher because of his higher ceiling, but it’s relatively close.
Matt (Jacksonville): Hi Bill, does Taylor Ward begin 2017 at AA Mobile? What other prospects do you forsee starting there? Thanks
Bill Mitchell: Ward should start the year in Double-A with the Angels new Southern League affiliate in Mobile, along with Jared Foster and perhaps Justin Anderson. Tyler Carpenter, who is this year’s pop-up guy, will probably return to Double-A after finishing the 2016 season there. I could see Matt Thaiss getting to Mobile by mid-season.
Jason L. (Walnut Creek, CA.): How is Alex Meyer still considered a Prospect? He was a College pitcher taken a few spots after Sonny Gray and has big league experience with both the Twins and Angels. What are rules regarding Rookie eligibility? 50 Innings or 50 days spent on a big league roster?
Bill Mitchell: Eligibility for these prospect lists is based on at-bats or innings pitched, and not on service time. Meyer has pitched only 28 big league innings, with the threshold for pitchers being 50 innings or 30 games pitched. He still qualifies. The Angels believe Meyer is ready to take the next step forward, so he’ll be a candidate for the big league starting rotation in 2017.
Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): I know he is no longer a prospect, but where would Jefry Marte rank on this list?
Bill Mitchell: Marte surprised me by how well he played last season. Last year’s Prospect Handbook was already at the printer by the time Marte joined the Angels last winter, so we never had the opportunity to consider him for last year’s list. Had he been acquired two months earlier, I probably would have then put him into the top 30 but not in the top 10.
Dan (Los Angeles CA): Where would Victor Alcantara have ranked before he went to the Tigers' system? What's his ceiling?
Bill Mitchell: I was originally planning on putting Alcantara somewhere in the 12-20 range on this year’s list before he was traded to Detroit for Cameron Maybin. Alcantara didn’t look very impressive in the Arizona Fall League, so I might have dropped him down a little further. The command just doesn’t seem to be coming for him. Maybe a change of scenery will help.
William (Pensacola, FL): How hard was it separating the players in the 7-10 range?
Bill Mitchell: I stayed consistent in having Middleton #9 and Barria at #10. Most of the juggling in that range involved the ranking of Grayson Long and Chris Rodriguez. Really, these two could be flipped, but while his upside is higher there’s still a lot of risk with Rodriguez. With that said about Rodriguez, he’s a great kid with a good arm and a diverse repertoire, so he may turn out to be excellent value for a fourth round pick.
Kevin (TX): Is it a surprise that Thaiss isn't closer to being an MLB contributor than Jones?
Bill Mitchell: Thaiss is likely to get to the big leagues before Jones because he’s older and has the major college experience behind him, but Jones has the more diverse skill set and may be able to stay in the middle of the diamond.
norman (greenville,sc): Alex Meyer - in the Angels rotation in April ? June ? Is he a #3 starter ?
Bill Mitchell: I previously answered that Meyer would get a shot at a rotation job out of spring training, so let’s wait and see how he looks in March. I believe he has the stuff to be a #3 starter, but the risk is much higher for him than other pitchers. I had one Angels scout remind me that extra-tall pitchers often take longer to get their mechanics to click, and he believed that, with good health, Meyer could be ready to take that big jump forward.
JG (SCA): Were Julio Garcia or David Fletcher close to cracking the Top 10?
Bill Mitchell: Fletcher is just outside the top ten. He’s pretty much the same player as before, a scrappy overachiever with a utility infielder profile. Garcia had a rough year with an injury that wiped out a good chunk of his AZL season. He’s still a very good defender at shortstop but we’ve been waiting for the bat to develop. The back end of the list, which is where Garcia is slotted right now, hasn’t yet been finalized. I’ll use this opportunity to plug the Prospect Handbook as an essential purchase for every serious baseball fan.
Rob (Toronto, ON): Roberto Baldoquin - stick a fork in him or does he have still have supporters who think he can turn things around?
Bill Mitchell: Baldoquin is the Cuban shortstop signed by the Angels for an $8 million bonus a couple of years ago, which required them to also pay nearly the same amount in penalties for exceeding their international bonus pool. Baldoquin’s name did not come up in a single discussion on prospects in the system. I think that answers your question.
Rob (Toronto, ON): Angels had several 2016 drafted bats progress to Orem and beyond quickly (Montgomery, Justus, Lund, Zimmerman for example). Did these guys all have really impressive debuts and do they all have the tools to pair with those performances?
Bill Mitchell: One consideration to keep in mind is that the Pioneer League is a good place to hit and can produce some inflated offensive numbers. But with that said, each of the four players you mentioned had nice debut seasons. Justus will probably rank highest among the four because of his shortstop defense, but scouts liked Zimmerman’s bat. Lund and Montgomery are very similar players — hard-nosed grinders profiling as fourth outfielders.
Mark (Anaheim): I see BA listed him as having the "best curveball" in the system. But after a terrible 2016, how bad is the outlook for Joe Gatto?
Bill Mitchell: There’s no sugar coating it — the 2016 season was not a good one for Joe Gatto, who had consistently been ranked in the top ten in the organization since being drafted in the second round in 2014. But there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. The Angels are pleased with the progress that Gatto made in his side sessions after returning to Arizona and then taking the mound every fifth day in instructional league. He’ll get another shot at the rotation in Burlington next season.
Rick (NY): Where's Erik Manoah fit on among Angels top prospects?
Bill Mitchell: Manoah isn’t in the top 30 but he’s an interesting arm, probably slated for the bullpen. A 13th round pick by the Mets in 2014, he was acquired by the Angels late in the summer. Manoah is an arm strength right-hander, touching 95 in instructional league, with a low-80s slider that acts more like a cutter. Scouts liked him more as a short burst guy, which is why I projected his future in the bullpen. I noticed one 80 grade tool when I saw him in instructs — when he took his hat off I saw the best flow that I’ve seen on anyone’s head all season!
Robert Cunningham (Los Angeles, CA): What floor and ceiling would you put on Grayson Long and Chris Rodriguez?
Bill Mitchell: Long has a ceiling of a 5th starter. There’s more risk with Rodriguez because he’s only pitched 11 innings as a pro, but he’s got a bit more upside and could also turn into a late inning reliever.
John (Raleigh): I haven't been able to find anything on Kyle Survance who missed all of 2016 after a solid 2015 debut that was shortened by a hand injury. Thoughts on the speedy OF?
Bill Mitchell: I didn’t get any reports on Survance this year after he missed the entire season to injury. He wasn’t on last year’s top 30 and any notes I have on him are now more than a year old. He’s got speed and athleticism, but will soon be 23 and hasn’t yet played full-season ball.
Max (KY): I don't mean to dog this system more than needed, but would you agree this is one of the overall worst systems you have seen of any team in recent memory?
Bill Mitchell: The Angels system has ranked at or near the bottom of the Baseball America rankings for the last several years and may again be #30, but I see some positive signs. I like that this year’s draft focused a little more on athletic high school position players like Brandon Marsh and Nonie Williams as well as rojectable young arms like Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing. I’m more optimistic about the system now than a year ago, and the losing season at the big league level will have them picking higher in the draft next year.
Junior (California): Since Billy Eppler took over GM job in Anaheim has he focused more on player development than previous GM? Is his front office more involved?
Bill Mitchell: I can’t address the involvement of the front office behind the scenes, but instead can comment on who I see showing up at their minor league complex and at Arizona League games. I’ve seen Eppler out on the back fields quite often as well as farm director Mike LaCassa, but in the past I’d frequently run into Scott Servais when he was in charge of the farm system.
Mick (Chicago): The Angels might be set w/ Andrelton at short. Do they have anybody in their system that can push him and/or replace the below average at best Giavotella at 2B?
Bill Mitchell: I don’t think so. Simmons has plenty of job security at this point and their second baseman of the future will likely come from outside the system.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of last years top 30 Angel prospects who do you think will go up the prospects list the most in the 2017 Handbook? Who will drop down the most slots?
Bill Mitchell: If you’re looking for someone who could jump higher next year, keep an eye on 6th round pick Cole Duensing, a right-handed pitcher from the Kansas City area. He impressed scouts covering the Arizona League and he’ll add velocity as his lanky frame gets stronger.
Mike (Denver): Miguel Hermosillo got a little bit of attention in the AFL as a cold weather, two sport prospect who might be a late bloomer. What do you make of him? In the 10-20 range?
Bill Mitchell: Mike, I think you must have hacked into my computer to read my report on Hermosillo. He’s never been ranked on the top 30 before but will be in the 10-20 range in the Prospect Handbook. Big time athleticism that’s being turned into baseball skills. He’s still got a lot of development ahead, but the makeup is solid and he has tools. Watch for him next year.
norman (greenville,sc): Nate Smith . On 25 man roster in April ? If so SP or RP ?
Bill Mitchell: Smith has a good chance to make the roster out of spring training. As to which role — starter or reliever — I will just answer “yes”. I had one scout put a 6th starter profile on Smith, which means he could function as a spot starter / long reliever. That sounds like a good way for Smith to break into the majors.
Keith (Providence, RI): How much upside does Marsh have and how risky is he? Did his injury affect his status much?
Bill Mitchell: Brandon Marsh was the Angels 2nd round pick out of high school in Georgia. His upside is very high, one of the few prospects in the system earning a projected overall grade of 55. We ranked him #4 despite the fact that he didn’t get into any games this summer or fall, so that means we really believe in his potential. I got good reports on his batting practice sessions, so I’m eager to see him when he finally gets some game action next spring.
Andrew (Massachusetts): Looking at what was written about Taylor Ward from BA it seems to me that if he gets his approach down correctly he probably will wind up as a .280/.340/.440 guy with 15-20 doubles, 15 homers, with great defensive abilities (almost a given in how the angels develop catchers) at the majors, not crazy great offensively but solid to a good player. His comp here would actually be Johnathan Lucroy so why so low on the kid?
Bill Mitchell: That offensive projection is much higher than what scouts anticipate from Ward, so a comp to Lucroy isn’t an appropriate one. With that said, he showed progress in the second half of the Cal League season and I’ve gotten a few positive comments on him from his time in the Arizona Fall League. But it’s still hard to find believers in the bat.
Ashley (Boise): Does Jahmai Jones remind you of any current MLB players with his skillset?
Bill Mitchell: I kept skipping over this question while I thought harder about it. There is one observer who always tells me that Jones reminds him of Mike Trout for the way he plays the game. But don’t make the wrong assumption from that statement — it would be very unfair to compare anyone, Jones included, to Trout who is in a class by himself. But could we call Jones “a poor man’s Mike Trout”? Perhaps.
Jimmy (New York): What are your thoughts on Jose Rodriguez who had a nice season in Burlington Low Class A. Do you see him as a prospect now?
Bill Mitchell: There are two Jose Rodriguez’s in the organization. You are asking about Jose D. Rodriguez, the right-handed pitcher who just finished a somewhat breakout season at Low-A Burlington. Jose D is more of a pitchability guy who right now is on the bubble of the top 30 — an interesting arm with a lower ceiling but one who knows how to pitch and took a big step forward this year. His makeup is good, too.
Michael (San Pedro, CA): Any names we should look for in the international market to add to this embarrassing Farm?
Bill Mitchell: Keep an eye on Leonardo Rivas, a middle infielder who was promoted from the DSL to the Arizona League mid-summer. He’s very quick and is a good defender, but needs to add strength in order to better impact the baseball at the plate. Oliver Ortega is an interesting right-handed pitcher who was in the AZL this summer. Another righty pitcher who showed up in instructs this year is Jose Soriano, who is 6-feet-4, 165 pounds and just turned 18.
John (Louisville): Do you see Jared Ruxer as a top 30 guy and someone who finally seems to be healthy after TJ?
Bill Mitchell: Ruxer, who was taken in the 12th round in 2014 out of Louisville after having Tommy John surgery in college, is a strike thrower with a fastball in the low-90s. He’s not in the top 30s but should at least move through every level of the organization and maybe have a chance to be an up / down reliever in a few years.
Bill Mitchell: That’s all the time I have today as I need to make a few more phone calls this afternoon in putting together the Diamondbacks top 30 list. Thanks for all of the great questions on the Angels organization. If you have any other questions, you may hit me up on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Happy Holidays to all!